US corporate results round-up

New Taco Bell menu boosts Yum
YUM Brands, the food group behind Pizza Hut and KFC, saw its first quarter profits rise by 73 per cent despite slower trading in its China division.

The Kentucky-based company’s profits climbed to $458m (£285.8m), boosted by a revamped menu at Taco Bell.

US sales at the Mexican fast food chain were up five per cent, more than doubling the rise expected by analysts.

But Yum had less promising results in China, where margins dropped to 23.6 per cent from 25.1 per cent a year earlier due to rising wage and commodity costs.

Yum’s sales in China, which account for just over 40 per cent of group profits, grew 14 per cent but fell short of analysts’ expectations.

Ebay soars on the back of PayPal
EBAY grew revenue a staggering 29 per cent last quarter to $3.28bn (£2bn) largely thanks to a strong performance from its payments subsidiary PayPal.

Profits increased by a fifth to $570m at the online marketplace despite margins falling to 19.9 per cent from 22.2 per cent in the same quarter last year “due primarily to the impact of acquisitions and business mix.”

The San Jose-based company generated $289m of free cash flow despite a $300m tax hit from the sale of its Skype stake last year.

PayPal’s revenues jumped 32 per cent to $1.3bn and the firm ended the quarter with 109.8m active registered accounts, a gain of 12 per cent.

Halliburton sees profits rise
OIL company Halliburton reported a 23 per cent rise in first quarter profit yesterday but set aside $300m (£187m) to cover probable losses related to its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Net income for the first quarter was $627m, compared to $511m this time last year.

The firm saw record revenue in its North American operations, which grew 40 per cent from a year earlier due to new oil drilling activity.

But the company warned of trouble ahead as a plunge in natural gas prices and increasing cost inflation on materials is set to have a negative impact on profit margins in the second quarter.

Business clients drive Marriott up
HOTELIER Marriott International saw its quarterly profits rise on the back of a strong performance in its corporate business.

Higher room rates boosted income from corporate guests by nine per cent, leading to an three per cent growth in group profits to $104m (£64.9m).

But total revenues slipped to $2.55bn from $2.78bn in the same period last year.

Marriott, whose brands include Ritz-Carlton, raised its forecast for systemwide revenue per available room – the measure of occupancy rate multiplied by room rate – from two to eight per cent this year, an increase from its previous estimations of a five per cent to seven per cent rise.